Magazine article Insight on the News

National Tragedy Brings out Best in News Media

Magazine article Insight on the News

National Tragedy Brings out Best in News Media

Article excerpt

It's been a regular staple of Hollywood for science-fiction writers to pen screenplays conceptualizing hostile superpowers of Earth coming together to face a deadly alien enemy. The video of the astonishing attacks on Washington and New York City, with commercial airplanes turned into kamikaze killing machines, was something out of a Bruce Willis blockbuster. This time, however, the violence was very real, and in a moment our nation was transformed entirely, utterly united in defense against this attack on our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

At a time like this, with so many mourning families and with national treasures reduced to rubble, Republicans and Democrats stood on the steps of the Capitol and broke into a spontaneous rendition of "God Bless America." The White House spokesman was almost speechless in describing how the president and congressional leaders sat shoulder to shoulder, all partisan differences no longer important, to plot a common road out of this disaster. And then there were those New Yorkers -- those supposedly obnoxious, surly, ornery New Yorkers -- suddenly transformed into the essence of America at her very finest, defining for all the world to see what real heroism is all about.

But let us not forget another element of our society that performed yeoman's work under what were truly awful circumstances. Our news media answered the call with professionalism and patriotism. Let us cheer the important and inspiring work done by our nation's journalists.

One cannot overestimate the importance of their work, either. All of America was hanging on to their every word during the attacks and in their aftermath as it began to crawl out of the wreckage. The press responded with fierce professionalism. Gone was the cynicism -- the upturned eyebrow, the sophisticated grin, the pithy rebuttal -- meant to signal to the public it shouldn't really believe the spin it's hearing. Gone was that ugly competition, the rush to be first with the story -- never mind if it's true or false.

Gone was the glitz. Gone, too, was the revenue: The networks surrendered hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising to bring continuous coverage to the public.

It is difficult to fathom the pressure on a journalist, particularly the on-air reporter, at a time such as this. On TV, the anchors earned their name by staying calm and weighty when hysteria came naturally. Consider one incident at the height of the crisis, just after the third plane had slammed into the Pentagon, when no one but no one knew what to expect next. …

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